Richard is a toddler-sized pyromaniac, and he burns down his house when he is just four years old.
After nearly dying, his family moves to Memphis. Richard is not too happy about it, but he’s probably lost his say in the family fortunes after his last big goof.
Richard figures out that he’s hungry, but he doesn’t know why. Turns out, Richard’s dad has gone AWOL, so his mom has to start working because they have no food.
Aww, it’s Richard’s first fight! His mom makes him stand up to the bullies who steal his grocery money. Little does she know that she’s created a fighting monster.
Unsupervised kids get into trouble, especially when they wander into bars full of drunk dudes looking for some cheap fun. Pretty soon, Richard is a six-year-old alcoholic. They grow up so fast.
When Momma Wright gets sick and can’t work, Richard and his brother end up in an orphanage. As usual, this doesn’t end well.
The family moves to Arkansas to live with Aunt Maggie. On the way, they visit Granny, where Richard hears his first story and becomes a lifelong literature fan boy.
Aunt Maggie’s house is awesome. It’s got all the food you can eat, and life is sweet—until Richard’s uncle is shot and they have to flee.
Later, Richard gets a new "uncle," but that doesn’t last long. "Uncle" runs away to the North, taking Aunt Maggie with him.
Richard’s mother ends up paralyzed after a stroke. Aunties and uncles take care of the kids, and Richard bunks down with super strict Aunt Jody and Uncle Clark.
One day when he’s supposed to be praying, Richard writes his first story ever. He shows it to a girl and pretends that he is a laid-back kind of guy who does these things all the time. No biggie.
Richard publishes his first story, and you’d think his family would be proud. You’d be wrong.
Check it out! Richard is the valedictorian of his school. It’s not really a moment of glory, because the principal gets super mad that Richard doesn’t want to read the speech the principal wrote for him.
After lying, cheating, and stealing, Richard finally moves out of Jackson to Memphis.
Richard borrows a library card and stumbles into a whole world of literature that he didn’t even know existed. He walks around with stars in his eyes for weeks.
Because Aunt Maggie’s new husband left her, Richard and his family are finally able to move to Chicago. Watch out, big city.
When the Great Depression hits, all the cool things Richard has been doing—working at a post office, reading newspapers, living in a sweet apartment—come to a screeching halt.
Richard joins the Communist party. This is… a bad idea. After some infighting, he leaves.